The US Senate has long been recognized and heralded as one of the largest legislative chambers in the world. his emphasis on debate, on cooling the passions of a stormy public, created a chamber that, at best, embraced dispassionate speech aimed at educating the public and passing enlightened legislation.
Of course, the Senate hasn’t always lived up to its glorious conception. at many points throughout its history, the senate ignored its founding principles and allowed the president to dominate the chamber; At too many points, senators used house rules and stalling design to slow the movement toward racial equality.
Reading: Worst senators of all time
A legislature is only as good as its legislators. Who are the worst senators in American history, those whose actions and statements tainted one of America’s greatest creations? In no particular order, here are America’s worst senators.
- 1 theodore bilbo (d-ms, 1935-1947)
- 2 james eastland (d-ms, 1943-1978)
- 3 joseph mccarthy (republican, 1947-1957)
- 4 strom thurmond (d/r-sc, 1956-2003)
- 5 huey long (d-la, 1932-1935)
- 6 william borah (r-id, 1907-1940)
- 7 robert taft (r-oh, 1939-1953)
- 8 But the absolute worst senators in American history have to be the ones who joined the confederacy.
theodore bilbo (d-ms, 1935-1947)
Mississippi demagogue and likely member of kkk compromised his tenure in public service to preserve segregation and uses all power at his disposal to prevent African Americans from gaining equal civil and political rights. bilbo, along with other senators from the south, embarked on one of the longest filibusters in the senate to prevent passage of an anti-lynching bill, saying (on the senate floor!) “if it succeeds in passing of this bill will open the floodgates of hell in the south. rapes, mobbing, lynchings, race riots and crime will increase a thousandfold; and on their clothes and the clothes of those responsible for the approval of the measure will be the blood of the raped and outraged daughters of dixie, as well as the blood of the perpetrators of these crimes committed by the red-blooded white Anglo-Saxons of the south. men will not tolerate it.”
in that same speech, bilbo first dabbled in the idea of returning the 12 million blacks to africa. he introduced legislation to achieve that goal in 1938 and continued to push for this “repatriation” during the second world war. at the end of the war, he added a new target for his vitriol: the Jews. defeating Nazism apparently did not defeat anti-Semitism at home.
writing to leonard golditch, executive secretary of the national committee to combat anti-semitism, bilbo ranted that “there are five million jews in the united states and most of them are good public citizens, but if jews of your kind don’t stop sponsoring and fraternizing with the black race you are going to arouse so much opposition that you are going to receive a very strong invitation to pack your bags and resettle in palestine, the homeland of the jews, just as we propose to provide for the voluntary resettlement of black americans in africa western his homeland. now don’t jump up and say i’m in favor of sending the jews to palestine. What I am trying to tell you is that there are only a few of you New York ‘kikes’ who are fraternizing and socializing with black people out of selfishness and politics and if you continue like this you will arouse opposition from the better class of your race.” p>
perhaps the most shocking and disturbing thing is that bilbo published a book in 1946 entitled “choose: separation or miscegenation”. the racist manifesto furthered his efforts to popularize the deportation of all blacks to Africa, tapping into racial anxieties and pointing to the “scientific” inferiority of blacks to argue that racial mixing, leading to interracial marriages, would destroy white civilization. His own words best exemplify the true depth of his hatred and ignorance: “The experiences and history of thousands of years prove that whenever the white and the black man have tried to live side by side, the result has been the miscegenation that has destroyed both races. and left a mestizo brown town.”
james eastland (d-ms, 1943-1978)
James Eastland, another Mississippi race-baiter, spent 35 years using his august position as a United States Senator to further segregationist causes. His reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, which ended the separate but equal regime, showed he believed in the Constitution and the Supreme Court only when the two furthered his racist intentioned. Eastland argued that “the Constitution of the United States was destroyed because of the Supreme Court’s decision” and went on to tell states – wrongly – that “you are not obliged to obey the decisions of any court which are plainly fraudulent sociological considerations.” States obviously cannot pick and choose which Supreme Court decisions and federals to follow. The Civil War ended that phony debate once and for all.
according to eastland, man did not create segregation. from nature sprang the separation of the races and only through the tyrannical and forceful actions of men would the races ever live together; such an event would never happen spontaneously. “The southern institution of racial segregation or racial separation was the correct one,” Eastland maintained, an “obvious truth that grew out of the chaos and confusion of the Reconstruction period. separation promotes racial harmony. it allows each race to follow its own activities and its own civilization. segregation is not discrimination… it is the law of nature, it is the law of god, that every race has both the right and the duty to perpetuate itself. all free men have the right to associate exclusively with members of their own race, free from government interference, if they so choose.”
His rhetoric and staunch opposition to civil rights will always be an embarrassment to the Senate and the country.
joseph mccarthy (republican, 1947-1957)
Joseph McCarthy’s brief reign of terror ruined hundreds of lives by relying on naked demagoguery to turn obvious lies into a seemingly unstoppable political force. McCarthy quickly gained national prominence after the “wheelie speech,” in which he claimed to have a list of 205 (or 257) suspected Communist Party members who had infiltrated the State Department. during various speeches and testimonies, the size of the list varied and its content remained secret; McCarthy’s claims later grew to encompass the Truman administration and the US military. uu.
his slander cultivated fear among public servants and even among elected officials. few dared to confront the demagogue for his cruelty in killing detractors. As such, McCarthy managed to brag his way to success; Of course, he had no evidence or reason to indict hundreds of communist sympathizers, but every time he was challenged on evidence, McCarthy grunted to keep the house of cards. Only when McCarthy directly challenged the Army and a month’s worth of televised “Army-Mccarthy” hearings allowed the public to see the extent of his recklessness, deception, and slander did he fall from grace, culminating in a formal Senate censure. and his eventual death in office.
strom thurmond (d/r-sc, 1956-2003)
The 1948 State’s Rights Party presidential nominee used his authority to thwart progress on civil rights, a dedication proved by running for president against Harry S Trump (his party’s nominee) because the Democratic National Convention endorsed a pro-civil rights plank. Thurmond wrote the first version of the Southern Manifesto, a piece which asserted that the Supreme Court no longer had the ability to review laws (a principle since the country’s founding) and that (southern) states should therefore resist the ruling. Many feared that the Southern Manifesto might be turned into another secessionist movement, coming, as it did, amidst heightened racial tensions because of desegregation.
In case his views on civil rights were still unclear, thurmond filibustered the civil rights act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes, the longest filibuster in us history. he labeled martin luther king, jr a “communist” and claimed that “the king degrades his race and retards the advancement of his people.” his militancy toward desegregation efforts came to light after truman desegregated the army and thurmond declared that “there are not enough troops in the army to force the people of the south to desegregate and admit the nigra race [sic] in our theaters, in our swimming pools, in our homes and in our churches.”
huey long (d-la, 1932-1935)
huey “kingfish” long, a radical demagogue, earned the title of “america’s first dictator” by the nation. President Franklin Roosevelt considered him one of the most dangerous men in America (General Douglas Macarther being the other). He rose to fame in 1928 following his election as Governor of Louisiana. there, for a long time he “turned the state into his dukedom, vassalized the legislators of the state” and continued his corrupt rule by installing a puppet governor in 1932, at which point he rose to the senate. /p>
h. I Mencken was long referred to as a Mussolini of the forest: “insolent, shameless, and infinitely prehensile.” others called it “der kingfish”, linking it, not too subtly, to adolf hitler, and later gaining power in germany. He fulfilled the requirements, controlling Louisiana affairs while serving in the Senate. Kingfish often returned to Louisiana to push through desired legislation, venturing into the state capitol and arguing spiritedly with current lawmakers. for a long time the state government used sponsorship as a weapon and did the same with taxes, threatening exorbitant fees and promising bribes to companies that played ball.
his term in the senate saw a long bid for a bolder goal: the presidency. Ridiculing Roosevelt as a stooge of special interests, he long introduced the “Share Our Wealth” program that sought to dramatically redistribute money through income caps and personal wealth limits (his numbers didn’t add up). It morphed into the “Share Our Wealth Society,” a political organization that generated popular support for a potential 1936 presidential bid. Such goals never came to fruition when a disgruntled doctor assassinated Huey Long in 1935. Sic Semper Tyrannis.
william borah (r-id, 1907-1940)
borah served in the senate for 33 years as a populist republican and a leading isolationist voice. he led the so-called irreconcilables: the senators who strongly opposed the treaty of versailles, which ended the first world war. Along with the Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts and other Republicans, Borah resisted the Fourteen Points and toured the country criticizing America’s involvement in an international organization that hoped to bring the world closer together and truly make World War I the “war to end America.” all wars.” “Ultimately, Borah and his isolationist cohort succeeded in defeating Wilson’s grand liberal goals.”
despite rightly predicting that the versailles treaty’s harsh treatment of germany could harm the nascent weimer republic, when adolf hitler rose to power and threatened the new democratic order, borah, though supposedly horrified by Nazi treatment of Jews, he refused to speak. against the regime. He similarly opposed the immigration of Jews from Germany. Interestingly, after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, Borah criticized Britain and France, not Germany. In his delusions of grandeur, Borah also believed that if he had met Hitler personally, Hitler would not have invaded Poland and the start of World War II could have been prevented.
borah also opposed federal anti-lynching legislation.
robert taft (r-oh, 1939-1953)
son of president howard taft, robert taft made a name for himself as a staunch conservative and opponent of the new deal, which he called “socialist”. Taft’s opposition to Roosevelt’s and Democratic initiatives included arguing against American involvement in World War II before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. A staunch non-interventionist, Taft fought against all efforts to help countries at war with Nazi Germany: His leadership in the cause pushed Roosevelt to act without Congress, finding ways in the legislative branch to help victims of the war. German aggression. After the war, Taft remained suspicious of NATO and hoped to demolish it. He also condemned the Nuremberg trials that sought to prosecute leading Nazis for crimes against humanity during the Holocaust.
But the absolute worst senators in American history have to be the ones who joined the confederacy.
Confederate senators committed treason by seceding from the union and supporting a failed nation-state that took up arms against the federal government. they abandoned the constitution and tried to forever divide the country to keep humans in bondage and continue a heinous system of violent white supremacy. These senators, who will always live in infamy, are:
- clement clay, jr (al)
- benjamin fitzpatrick (al)
- william sebastian (ar)
- charles mitchel (ar)
- david yulee (fl)
- stephen mallory (fl)
- robert toombs (ga)
- alfred iverson, sr (ga )
- jesse bright (in)
- john breckinridge (ky)
- judah benjamin (la)
- john slidell (la)
- jefferson davis (ms)
- albert brown (ms)
- waldo johnson (mo)
- trusten polk (mo)
- thomas bragg (nc)
- thomas clingman (nc)
- james chestnut, (sc)
- james hammond (sc)
- alfred nicholson (tn)
- louis wigfall (tx)
- john hemphill (tx)
- james mason (va)
- robert hunter (va)